Christ Himself

Probably not technically the right way to read this part of Revelation . . . and maybe it’s because I’m being overly influenced by Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, or Giving Tuesday, or this consumer-day-is-every-day time of year . . . but I find myself this morning taking note of the gifts that await me.

Well, not me by name, but me to the degree that I’m allowed to identify with the conquerors of Revelation chapters two and three–the ESV calling them those who conquer, while other translations refer to them as those who are victorious, or those who overcome.

The victorious, in essence, are those who are faithful until the end. Those who remain true to the Word, refuse to be drawn into the world, and resolve, by God’s grace and enabling power, to walk in the Way. These are the overcomers. And to them, the One who knows their works, Christ the Head of the Church, promises great reward for overcoming.

As I read this morning in Revelation 2, the rewards for faithful conquerors include: access to the tree of life in the paradise of God (2:7); a crown of life exempting its bearer from the second death (2:10b-11); hidden manna and a white stone personalized with a new name written on it (2:17); and, authority to rule alongside the King of heaven when He establishes His reign over the nations (2:26). Pretty great rewards I’m thinking!

But there’s one prize at the end of this chapter which, in a sense, makes the others pale in comparison. One promised reward that I think is at the heart of all other benefits for seeking to remain faithful. One outcome that is at the center of all other outcomes. And that is Christ Himself.

” . . . and I will give him the morning star.” ~ Jesus to the Church at Thyratira

(Revelation 2:28 ESV)

And what is this morning star promised to those who overcome? Flip to the end of the book and it, rather He, is identified.

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the Root and the Descendant of David, the Bright Morning Star.”

(Revelation 22:16 ESV)

To the one who conquers, says Jesus, to him I will give Myself. What more could we want?

That is the great blessing of the gospel–Christ Himself!

Forgiveness of sins, adoption as sons and daughters, eternal life, an incorruptible inheritance–all promised as outcomes of our redemption. But all God’s promises find their Yes in Christ (2Cor. 1:20). And so, to have Him, to be given the Morning Star, is the great prize of the good news.

That God would dwell in the midst, that He would provide His presence, that is the prize above all other prizes. That He would not only own us as His special people, would not only welcome us as sons and daughters in His family, but would desire to come in and dine with us one-on-one, giving us Himself . . . oh what wonder! Oh what grace! Oh, give me Jesus.

I know it’s not about me and what I get. It’s not about me because I don’t deserve it–in fact, what I deserve, Christ bore on the cross. And, it’s not about me, because the Giver of every good gift is the one to receive all the glory. Yet, as the One who walks among the churches exhorts His own to keep on keepin’ on, He does so reminding us of the reward that awaits the faithful, drawing our attention to what awaits us after we have “fought the good fight, have finished the race, and have kept the faith” (2Tim. 4:7). We are to be motivated by the victor’s crown. And that, ultimately, is Christ Himself.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

(Revelation 2:29 ESV)

O’ the unfathomable wonder of the gifts of grace. To God be glory alone.

Posted in Revelation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Job and Jesus

Back in routine (sort of) after spending the latter part of last week back in B.C. with my grandkids (their parents were there too . . . I think). And, this morning, I’m partaking of Job and Jesus.

I’m keenly aware that there’s a different dynamic when reading Job while you’re feeling you are in a “valley” season. Not that you’d ever equate your circumstance with Job’s, but you do find yourself relating to so much of his “out loud” mental processing. And something Job says in one of his responses to Eliphaz particularly resonates. But then, later in my morning reading, something Jesus says graciously recalibrates.

“Behold, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive Him; on the left hand when He is working, I do not behold Him; He turns to the right hand, but I do not see Him. But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”   ~ Job

(Job 23:8-10 ESV)

Throughout this drama, Job’s wanting an audience with the Almighty. But he cant’ track Him down.

If He could just have a one-on-one with the Creator, Job would tell Him what is and what should be. But Job can’t seem to get both he and Him around the same table.

In fact, God’s not there when Job tries to go forward. And when Job looks back He’s not sensing God’s been there, either. Job looks to the left, and then to the right, and nothing–no presence. Though he knows God is active in the world, Job just doesn’t see Him active in his world. He cries out to heaven, but heaven’s silent.

Job’s feeling alone, terribly alone. The comforters in front of him are not really of much comfort. And the God above Him is so High He is beyond connecting with.

Sure, there’s the promise (at least I take it as a promise, though I suspect Job states it in a spirit of self-vindication). The promise that God is aware of the ways we take, even the valley paths. And that He uses such portions of the pilgrimage to continue His refining work in us so that, ultimately, for those who, through faith and by grace, keep on keepin’ on, gold will emerge. Precious promise. But still, no presence.

I get Job, at least to some degree. When you’re feeling the valley it’s easy to relate.

And then, I read in John 14. And Jesus’ words stir the soul and help it to recalibrate.

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. . . . And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love Him and manifest myself to Him. . . . If anyone loves me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”   ~ Jesus

(John 14:16-18, 21b, 23 ESV)

Go forward, and know that God, through His indwelling Spirit, is there. Look back, and you see His presence in every time He has evidenced His unfailing commitment to never leave us nor forsake us. Look to the right, and to the left, and know the promise that, through the Third Person of our Triune God, that both Father and Son desire with great desire to come and make Their home with those who love Him. So affirms the Spirit of truth. And so is reality.

He is here, hallelujah! He is here, amen!

While we might relate to Job’s feeling of isolation, we’re revived when we acknowledge, believing wholeheartedly, that He is here. His Spirit having taken up permanent residence within us. A Helper in time of need . . . with us forever. A Deposit guaranteeing the outcome . . . the inheritance that awaits. An Intercessor on duty 24/7 . . . praying when we don’t know how to pray. A Comforter . . . ready to draw alongside and strengthen the weary pilgrim and to renew the inner man from the inside out.

Job and Jesus.

Feasting on manna from above.

By His grace. For His glory.

Have a few extra minutes?  Click here and check out GVB singing “He is Here!”

Posted in Job, John | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Man Greatly Loved

Reading in Daniel this morning. And, to be honest, not sure I’m that focused on picking up the pieces of prophecy being laid down. Instead, I’m a bit distracted by who’s delivering the vision and how he refers to Daniel.

I think Daniel has an encounter with the pre-incarnate Christ in Daniel 10. He’s already connected with Gabriel, a mighty and awesome angel, but here I’m thinking Daniel is visited by the Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity (10:5-6). The description of Daniel’s “visitor” is remarkably similar to the description of John’s visitor on the Isle of Patmos (Rev1:12-16)–both, it would seem, having an encounter of the divine kind with the glorious Son of Man. Both doing what you do when you encounter the King of Kings, both going facedown (Dan. 10:9, Rev. 1:17).

And what’s grabbed me, and what’s distracted me, is how the awesome Christ of heaven addresses this man of dust of the earth.

And He said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when He had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. . . . And He said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage. And as He spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, Let my lord speak, for You have strengthened me.

(Daniel 10:11, 19 ESV)

Man greatly love. Twice the One who rolls back heaven’s veil and reveals His awe-invoking majesty to this mere mortal, calls His faithful servant, “Man greatly loved.”

Literally, “a man of desires.” The object of God’s delight. One precious in His sight; pleasant to know; pleasing to commune with. Just as John, the apocalyptic prophet of the New Testament, was the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” so Daniel, the apocalyptic prophet of the Old Testament, was the “man greatly loved” of the pre-incarnate Christ.

And I’m in awe that the mighty Creator would look upon anyone or anything in His fallen creation with such affection and desire. That any man or woman might be tenderly called man greatly love, or woman greatly loved, by the Almighty Ruler of the universe.

And not gonna lie, it gets personal. As I read the the words to Daniel, I hear a still, small voice whisper to me, “O man greatly loved.”

Who am I to think I might be addressed in such a way by the LORD of heaven?

And I’m reminded it’s not in any way about who I am, but solely about what He has accomplished through the cross. His desire and delight in me is in spite of what I have done, but His love is poured out because of who He is. God is love.

And I hear His voice, “O man greatly loved” and I too feel the need to go facedown. To thank Him for His amazing grace. To worship Him as He reveals His awe-invoking glory.

And then another thought comes to mind . . . Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. His face shining like the sun. His clothes as white as light. A bright cloud descending over Him and voice from the cloud thunders:

“This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

(Matthew 17:5 ESV)

The Christ, the apple of the Creator’s eye. The Savior, the delight of the Sovereign. Jesus, O Man greatly loved by the Father.

Greatly loved, He as the Source of abundant grace, we as recipients of grace. Greatly loved, He as the Beloved Son, we, somehow, for His glory.

O come let us adore Him!

And when the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces . . .

(Matthew 17:6 ESV)

Posted in Daniel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Contend for the Faith

Throwback Friday (I know, not a thing, but that’s what today’s gonna be).

I’m hovering over the brief letter written by Jude and thinking about how I would just as soon chew on the good tasting stuff of verses 24 and 25–the glory of being presented blameless in His presence–and just breeze over the bitter taste of the rest of the letter. In fact, that’s what Jude wanted to do as well, as he was “eager to write to you about our common salvation.” Instead, his emphasis is on the need to contend for the faith. Why? “Well,” to quote another famous theologian, “ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here in River City” (Professor Harold Hill, The Music Man).

And I’m thinking that, in the church’s battle to free grace from the bonds of legalism, we may have taken our eye off of grace’s other enemy, licentiousness. Don’t really even use that word much anymore. So I went back in my journal to see what thoughts I might have captured in previous years about this little letter. And something I wrote back in 2014 caused me to whisper, “Amen,” as it reflected many of the thoughts going through my head this morning. Re-running it for others to consider, as well. Happy Throwback Friday.

——————————————————————————————–

Although he was eager to talk to them of their common salvation, he instead appeals to them to contend for the faith. While he wanted to get lost in the grandeur of deliverance, he instead felt he needed to be real about the great danger of destruction. Though he initially intended to talk to them of the steadfast love of God, he instead warns them of the condemnation that awaits those who pervert grace.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

(Jude 3-4 ESV)

They had entered the assembly of the saints in secret. Stealthily they had settled in alongside those who had been “called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (v.1). Jude piles on the metaphors concerning these infiltrators. They were “hidden reefs at your love feasts” . . . shepherds who feed themselves . . . waterless clouds . . . fruitless trees . . . substance-less, foaming waves of the sea . . . wandering stars (vv.12-13). Driven by their flesh-invoked, and perhaps satanically inspired, dreams, they “defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme glorious ones” . . . blaspheming “all that they do not understand” (v. 8, 10). They were, and are, quite simply, bad news for the people of the good book.

And, they have “crept in unnoticed.” Therefore, writes Jude, contend for the faith.

In our day, I sometimes fear that we have reacted so strongly to the legalism of past generations that, as part of preaching “by grace alone,” we have failed to recognize the need to still contend for the faith among those calling themselves people of God. That while we are careful to not rely on the flesh at all, we fail to see the need to still bring the flesh under submission. That while our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, it is possible to pervert, or transpose grace such that, rather than make us free FROM SIN, it is used as an excuse TO SIN. That our liberty is swallowed up in license. And so, says Jude, we need to enter the fray and agonizingly struggle for the truth of the faith delivered to us.

We need to be people of the Book. We need to be people who are careful not to quench the illuminating work of the Spirit. We need to be people ready to call sin for what it is . . . sin! And, we need to be people who are ready to engage error and wrestle it to the mat . . . especially when it’s error from the inside.

But we are not people who do this on our own. For just as it was Jesus who delivered a people out of the land of Egypt (v.5a), it is Jesus who is able “to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy” (v. 24a). As we build ourselves up in our most holy faith . . . as we pray in the Holy Spirit . . . as we keep ourselves in the love of God . . . as we wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life (vv. 20-21) . . . then will we be able, by grace, to contend for grace. Then will we, with power, be able to defend that which is true.

And then, with eagerness, we can bask in the wonder of our common salvation.

By His grace . . . for His glory.

Posted in Jude | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wash My Feet

Often, I think I jump to what I need to do rather than just chew on what He’s done. I rush to practical application, brushing past the wonder of incarnation. Ready to imitate, before I take time to meditate. Such is the case as I read the opening verses of John 13 this morning.

I imagine that a hush must have fell over the room as Jesus got up from supper, took off His outer garment, and took up the towel. That all eyes must have been fixed on the Master as, without a word, He filled the basin with water, and started washing the disciples feet. And that, while Simon may have been the only one to articulate the question, they were all thinking, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”

What they didn’t know at the time is what John, through the Holy Spirit, reveals to those would later read his account of that final meal. That Jesus determined to serve His disciples in such a lowly manner “knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God” (13:3). At the moment Jesus was fully aware of His deity, His authority, and His destiny. If ever there was a time to stand before them as Lord, and command them as Master, this was the time. But first He would kneel at their feet and serve them because He had purposed to love them to the end.

. . . when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

(John 13:1 ESV)

That’s what Jesus does. He loves His own to the end. He is with them, as they run the race, until they cross the finish line. Draws alongside during the battle, until victory is finally won. Having started a good work in His own, He is committed to seeing it through until the day He comes again to gather His own to Himself. And if along the way, it means washing their feet (and it does), He does that too.

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered Him, If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean . . ”

(John 13:8-10 ESV)

Jesus told Peter the washing was necessary. That getting dirt on his feet was inevitable. That if Peter were going to continue to abide with Jesus, it would be necessary to pull out the towel, from time to time. Not that Peter would need to again be fully bathed, but would continually need to ministered to through the basin. Jesus being prepared to continually wipe off the feet of those He already declared completely clean.

Made clean, completely clean, through His finished work on the cross. The shed blood of Christ removing the stain of sin and transgression forever. But the water of the Word needing to be applied often to deal with the defiling effect of the ways of this world and the weakness of the flesh. Jesus willing, again and again, to take up the towel and basin and wash away our failure that we might continue in fellowship with Him. Determined to love us, and love us to the end.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(1John 1:8-9 ESV)

I know I need to follow the Master’s example. That just as He humbles Himself to wash my feet, I need to humbly draw alongside and serve others. That a servant is not great than his master. And that there is a blessing in knowing these things and doing these things (13:16-17).

But before I go there, I need to sit here and humbly confess, “Lord Jesus, wash my feet.”

Before I go and do, there is merit in remembering what He has already done and is continually doing.

Before I act, maybe it’s best to be still and simply adore. To reflect on the love of God as manifest in the Son who through Spirit has determined to love me to the end.

O’, the wonder of grace. To Him be all the glory.

Posted in John | Tagged , | 2 Comments

An Unlikely Psalmist

I’ll take lesser known songs of praise for 2000, Alex.

Blessed be the Most High, and praise and honor Him who lives forever,
for His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and His kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and He does according to His will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;

and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have you done?”

Uh . . . who is David? Nope. Solomon? Nope, again. How about Isaiah? Wrong! One of the other prophets? Not them. Job? Not him either. Couldn’t be Paul. You’re right, couldn’t be. Then who?

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

No way!

Way! (Daniel 4:34-35)

Did a double reading in Daniel this morning. Four chapters covering the major events of Daniel & Co. in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. And there’s a fresh sense of awe as I hover over this unlikely psalmist.

Unlikely because we’re talking king of Babylon here. You know, Babylon as in the merciless Chaldeans. A nation who, shaped by their leader, had the reputation of being a “ruthless and impetuous people,” sweeping across the whole earth to seize dwelling-places not their own. They were a feared and dreaded nation, a law to themselves, and concerned only with promoting their own honor. With horses swifter than leopards, and riders fiercer than wolves at dusk, they were unstoppable–like vultures swooping to devour helpless prey. A people bent on violence–deriding kings, scoffing at rulers, laughing at fortified cities. Worshipers of self, “whose own strength is their god.” (Hab. 1:6-11 NIV).

Yeah, it was their king who was the guy who blessed the Most High.

The same king who brought Daniel and friends to his palace and tried to conform them into his own image. The king who would think nothing of executing every wise man in his kingdom, whether magician, enchanter, sorcerer, or court counselor, if they couldn’t make known to him the details of his dream. The king who built big and imposing idols and demanded that all in his kingdom bow down to them whenever he said so. The king so enraged at three minor officials who refused to bow down to his idol, that he threw them into a burning inferno. The king who would stand upon the roof of his palace, look over Babylon, and whisper to himself, “Ain’t I something! This is MY kingdom that I have built by MY power for the glory of MY majesty” (Daniel 4:30).

Yup, he’s the one writing songs to praise and honor God who lives forever.

And as I chew on this sovereign, and his story, and his song, I can’t help but marvel that this unlikely psalmist is, in many ways, your typical trophy of grace.

His sins, many. His arrogance, off the charts. The blood on his hands would fill an ocean. And yet, by the Creator’s sovereign determination, through the Almighty’s infinite patience, God chooses to reveal Himself to him. And this man is brought to his senses and bows down before the God Most High, and blesses the LORD with all his soul. And all this, accomplished with justice–through a provision yet to be revealed to the world.

. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show Gods righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.

(Romans 3:23-25 ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar was a benefactor of “divine forbearance.” An unholy man made a worshiper of the One Holy God because His sin would one day be atoned for. The redemption of a ruthless despot fully justified in the eternal economy of the kingdom of heaven because God’s righteousness would be credited to him by a great exchange yet to happen. His former sins “passed over” because the Lord Jesus Christ, though He was rich, yet for Nebuchadnezzar’s sake became poor, so that the Babylonian king by Christ’s poverty might become rich (2Cor. 8:9).

So that this once self-absorbed man might again look up from that same palace roof, behold the heavens, and bless the Most high, giving praise and honor to Him who lives forever.

And, bringing it home, so that this once self-consumed guy, sitting over his laptop doing his devo’s this morning, might do the same.

That’s the power of the cross. That’s the unfathomable love of God.

Unreal!

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

All because of His amazing grace. All for His everlasting glory!

Posted in Daniel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What More Could They Want?

They weren’t going to get wealthy doing what they did, but they were rich beyond measure. Didn’t have the toys their neighbor’s did, but they had something far better.  Couldn’t open up a bank account, but they were able to lay up treasures in storehouses in heaven. They weren’t able to own any land, but they had access to holy ground.

No earthly inheritance, no physical assets to show for a lifetime of labor. But given what they had instead, what more could they want?

“This shall be their inheritance: I am their inheritance: and you shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession.”

(Ezekiel 44:28 ESV)

This morning, I’ve been reading the revelation given Ezekiel of a new temple. Enough detail in his vision to measure out the footprint and draw up working blueprints for God’s reconstructed and reestablished earthly place of habitation.

But, as impressive as Jerusalem’s bigger and better place of worship might be, what catches my eye is something that could not be improved upon–the privilege of the priesthood. Just as they had in the tabernacle in the wilderness, or in the glorious temple built by Solomon, those called to be priests would again be granted access to the holy place. Invited in to draw near to the place where the glory would again reside. Set apart to minister to the Holy One of Israel.

But the job came with a price. Theirs was to be a sanctified life. A high bar set in order for mere men to enter the presence of an Awesome God. Their devotion was to be whole-hearted. They were to be all in. And, as a visible reminder that God was to be their portion and sufficiency, they and their families were to live without what most considered to be basic essentials.

There was to be no expectation of ever receiving an inheritance, or passing one on to their kids–because God Himself would be their inheritance. No land was assigned to their tribe, as was to the other tribes of Israel.

What’s more, there would be no moon-lighting at a second job in order to make ends meet. Instead, they were to live off their labor as intermediaries for God’s people trusting that he would continually provide through the generations. And when they sat back and considered what they had to show for all their labors, they would look to the I AM, alone, as their special possession.

Access into the presence of the Creator. Robed in His appointed and anointed garments. Bathed continually in His glory. Offering sacrifices pleasing to the Almighty. What more could they want?

What more could I want?

. . . you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

(1Peter 2:5 ESV)

Called to be a holy priesthood–that’s who we are as believers in Christ.

The blood of Jesus removing all barriers for access to the holy of holies. Robed in the perfection and righteousness of the Son of God, credited to us apart from any merit of our own, thus providing a just basis for entry into heavenly realms of glory. Privileged to approach confidently and minister, through His enabling, ably. To abide in His presence and, wonder of wonders, to have Him delight in abiding with us. All this while offering up sacrifices pleasing in His sight, and laying up treasures in a future place of unimaginable joy and pleasure.

Whatever we set our affections on here on earth; whatever temporal possession we feel compelled to expend our energies toward; whatever we think we are accomplishing by laying up a legacy and inheritance for those who follow us, it pales in comparison to what we now possess in Him and what we will inherit on that day when we are with Him.

What more could we want?

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I’d rather be His than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name

Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today

George Beverly Shea | Rhea F. Miller
Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

Because of grace. For His glory

 

Posted in Ezekiel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment